Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Give Quality Feedback

We all know the importance of quality feedback for our students, especially for their writing. That said, how often do we truly give MEANINGFUL feedback that does not just praise students but shows them exactly what they did right and what they need to work on for next time?

The following article gives some quality tips on doing just that, which will only help our students grow more as learners and writers. Read on!

Quality Feedback

What Is It and How to Give It

Katie Rapp
Writing "Nice job!" on the top of a student's paper is encouraging, but is it helpful feedback? Experts offer advice about how to give useful and usable feedback.
"The most common pitfall is thinking that giving personal praise is the same as giving feedback," says Helen Timperley in the article "The Power of Feedback" in the Review of Educational Research.
Although praise is much appreciated and extremely valuable in its own right, it doesn't necessarily provide information that will move a student toward a specific learning target.
"Feedback is value-neutral help on worthy tasks. It describes what the learner did and did not do in relation to her goals," Grant Wiggins explains in the article "Assessment as Feedback," for the Johns Hopkins School of Education website. "It is actionable information, and it empowers the student to make intelligent adjustments when she applies it to her next attempt to perform."
On his blog, Big Ideas, Wiggins offers examples:
  • "'Good job!' is not feedback.
  • 'You used many interesting details to make your characters come alive in this story,' is feedback.
  • B– is not feedback.
  • 'Your thesis is an interesting one, but you have not provided sufficient evidence to support it' is [feedback]."
Susan M. Brookhart, author of How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students, says that feedback should appeal to both the mind (cognition) and the heart (motivation), because it gives students information they need that helps them understand where they are in their learning and what to do next.
"Once they feel they understand what to do and why, most students develop a feeling that they have control over their own learning," Brookhart says.

What Is the Goal?

Feedback must be tied clearly to a stated learning goal. Rick Stiggins, of the Assessment Training Institute, describes feedback as part of an assessment system that is completely open, with no surprises.
Teachers should present students with a list of achievement standards that they must master to be successful in the course of study. And students should understand that, at some point, they will be held accountable through a rigorous assessment, which will allow them to demonstrate their mastery of these standards. This summative assessment, which might culminate in test scores and grades, is completely separate from the formative process, which is assessment for learning, Stiggins says.
Assessment for learning includes feedback for learning, and feedback should focus on a learning target. For example, when students are developing writing proficiency, a learning goal may be to understand writing with the proper voice. Instruction begins with a student-friendly description of the learning target accompanied by examples of writing that uses the voice both well and poorly so that students understand the continuum of how their writing will progress.
Feedback tells students where they are on the continuum, Stiggins says. They understand how they are progressing toward the goal and where they need to improve so that they can continue to progress. In this way, students generate their own feedback and become partners with teachers in setting goals for what comes next in their own learning.
Stiggins says that this kind of high-quality, descriptive feedback turns the "keys to the kingdom" over to students and shows them that they are in control of their learning.

Make the Time

Giving quality feedback, frankly, can take a lot of time. Carolyn Hood, a master trainer at the Learning Headquarters in San Diego, Calif., recommends that teachers prioritize the feedback that they give students by selecting bite-size chunks and focusing on big-picture learning goals.
Another way for teachers to find time for quality feedback, Hook says, is to set a goal of talking to each student perhaps once a week, rather than daily. A two- to three-minute miniconference can provide a great deal of usable feedback.
For example, a student struggling with defining a clear story line might benefit from this kind of brief, focused feedback that confirms success and then involves the student in a conversation about how to improve. She offers an example:
I can see that you are learning how to develop your story and draw a clear line from the conflict to the resolution. As a reader, I became a little confused in the character's second attempt to solve the problem. The twist seems to create another plot line. Writers try to connect new information back to the central idea for the reader. Is there a way you can clarify this idea? If it doesn't tie in smoothly, you may want to modify it. So let's talk this through. How could you connect the part about the character finding the highly confidential space vessel?
Stiggins suggests allowing students to lead conferences with their teachers as a way of helping them take control of their learning and demonstrate how they are working toward meeting the learning target.

Quick Tips

  • Tie the feedback to a specific learning goal. Feedback should tell students where they are on the continuum, says Stiggins.
  • Provide information that students can use to improve their performance. What actions do you want students to take? What are the growth areas and places where additional skill-building should take place?
  • Deliver feedback on student work in a timely manner. Students need feedback while they are still working on the learning goal, not after they have moved on to something else.
  • Provide opportunities for students to participate in generating feedback rather than acting as passive receivers. Brookhart suggests asking students questions that allow them to think about what they need help with. For example, she says, "Rather than telling the student all the things you notice about his or her work, start by asking, 'What are you noticing about this?' or 'Why did you decide to do it this way?'"
  • Feedback doesn't always have to be tied to a grade. "When feedback is given along with a grade or evaluative comment, most students just hear judgment," Brookhart says. Look for ways to work feedback into the process before you hand out grades.
  • Help students self-regulate. Jane E. Pollock, author of Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching and Learning, recommends having students create goal-accounting templates so that they can track their daily effort toward meeting that goal and generate their own feedback.
  • When giving students feedback, take the time to think about what will help students actually improve. "To be effective in supporting learning, feedback needs to focus on something the student did well along with suggestions for how to do better next time. If a teacher cannot find something positive to say, then feedback is not what needs to come next. Additional teaching needs to come next," Stiggins says.

Additional Resources

  • Accountability for Learning: How Teachers and School Leaders Can Take Charge by Douglas B. Reeves
  • Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom: A Guide for Instructional Leaders by Susan M. Brookhart and Connie M. Moss
  • Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston
  • Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert J. Marzano, Debra Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock
  • Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, 2nd edition by Ceri B. Dean, BJ Stone, Elizabeth Hubbell, and Howard Pitler
  • Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching and Learning by Jane E. Pollock
  • Giving Effective Feedback to Your Students (ASCD, DVD series)
  • How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students by Susan M. Brookhart

Feed Up, Feedback, Feed Forward: Making Formative Assessment Come Alive
Watch Nancy Frey's webinar about using feedback to increase student achievement.

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